I first decided to take a gap year not because I was tired of being a student – in fact I am always looking for knowledge – but because I needed time to learn a different way. After many-hour-long expeditions in science class and tiring but fulfilling work programs here at Chewonki, I realized there was a more intimate way of learning that I wanted delve into. My mind always wanders back to the Salt Marsh Farm. As a semester student I spent endless hours at the farm, helping with chores whenever I could or just giving the pigs belly rubs. I had learned how to milk, split wood, drive our horse Sal, and I watched as lambs took their first breaths, steps, suckles, and clumsy leaps. I was just touching upon the surface, and I needed to get back to learn more. These days I’m learning to put my faith in delicate things: The spinach seed we planted in the high tunnel Greta, our calf, who will one day sustain us with her milk The brilliant red and golden leaves the sky laughs down I’m learning how to love fall this year. I used to cringe at the thought of her return. I could not stand the loss that surrounded me. The disappearance of lush green leaves, the shiver in my bones that I could not shake, all the death and decay. How foolish I was though, for what the trees drop nourishes their roots, and in that there is no loss. I think I finally accepted fall for who she was one morning while drag harrowing the fields with Sal. The sky was a foreboding gray, and I swear it was holding its breath. It was cold enough that my cheeks and ears were tickled pink, but I could still feel the tips of my fingers. Under the ominous gray sky and next to our ethereal draft horse Sal I felt so small, but it felt so okay. I think fall may be for stepping outside of ourselves. We have taken all through spring and summer, filled our root cellars and our bellies with delicious hardy vegetables. I smile when I come in cold and wet to the dining hall and am greeted by warm farm chicken and heavenly Delicata squash that many hands have helped to harvest, prepare, and serve. I believe when the leaves turn giving us one last glimpse of dazzling color before the bleak winter settles in, they are giving us their last gifts. Then they let go and it’s our turn to give back. As I cover crop and mulch the fields it’s as if I’m saying, “Thank you, you have done more than enough.” I’m amazed by how much I’m learning everyday here. Whether it is about the seasons, cows, seedlings, work ethic, myself, my experience has been nothing short of rich. Any initial hesitation about being a young staff member here faded. Having returned after only two full semesters had passed it could have been easy to come back and try to assume the role of a semester student who spent more time at the farm. While it felt strange at first, not knowing where I lie as a member of the community, I slowly felt a niche forming. One night the students had a cookout and they sat in a crooked circle under a star-freckled sky. The conversation faded in and out and was interrupted by the occasional burst of freeing laughter. That night I felt my body filling with nostalgia and over the course of the meal it slowly fleeted until I was present. In that presence I felt like I belonged. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to be a part of Semester 53 in a different way than what I was once familiar with. It is a true pleasure to watch them and be a part of their journey here at Chewonki. Work is definitely different than it was when I was a semester student. Farm work does not simply end after two hours of splitting wood or an hour of farm chores in the afternoon. It is long, tiring, trying, but incredibly special work. Hay days left my fingers open and bloody. Harvesting leaves the fibers of my jeans stained with mud. Chores in the rain leave me sopping wet but feeling alive. I love the rawness of this work. Waking before the sun yawns. Tending and caring for life and then letting it go. Putting myself at the mercy of the weather. Exposing myself. Making mistakes. And Continuing on. As this experience at Chewonki is coming to an end, I cannot help but smile and feel incredibly lucky. I have worked with three incredible women in whom I see how I wish to live. They have been patient as I stumbled. Educators as I searched for knowledge. Friends as I looked for laughter. This experience has made me feel whole and I cannot think of a better way to have spent the first part of my gap year. Thank you all. It has been a gift.